Can we generate electricity by under-water Kites?

It has been around for quite some time – the fact that one can generate electricity using kites and balloons, but can we really generate it with underwater kites rather than the prevalent turbulent currents? 

There are some fascinating proposals already for power generation using tethered kites and balloons… Why not indeed, because that is exactly what two independent teams of researchers are doing, one from


Sweden and the other from Worcester Polytechnic Institute

USA [Source: Discovery News].

A Massachusetts research program just got a nice big grant from the National Science Foundation to work on harnessing ocean currents and tidal flows using underwater kites. The potential: Power equal to about 10 nuclear power plants.

This kite-flying dream is being led by David Olinger, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute specializing in wind and wave turbines. In the past, he and his students developed a very inexpensive kite-powered water pump for developing nations. Now he’s looking to create small tethered, undersea kites that can “fly” quickly in currents. The NSF recently awarded Olinger’s new research program $300,000.

Olinger cited the Gulf Stream, the massive underwater current flowing from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean. That power potential is estimated at about 20 gigawatts, or about 10 nuclear power plants. ”Just as wind turbines can convert moving air into electricity, there is the potential to transform these virtually untapped liquid ‘breezes’ into vast amounts of power”.

Olinger’s system has similarities to the underwater kites designed by the Swedish company Minesto. However, Minesto plans to tether the kites to the ocean floor while Olinger’s group would attach them to a floating system. Each Minesto’s kite also has a wind turbine attached while Olinger will look at potentially removing the turbine and placing the electrical generator on the floating platform instead.

Just as traditional kites use air currents to generate lift, underwater kites use water currents to generate hydrodynamic lift. The tethered motion of the underwater kite generates electricity as water flows through an attached ducted turbine.

Water currents tend to be much more reliable and predictable than air currents so the expectation is that using water currents to generate electricity should be a more dependable power source. Also, given that water is approximately 800 times denser than air, the underwater kites can be much more compact for a similar power output compared to airborne kites. On the downside, water tends to be a hostile environment for machinery (especially metals). Also water is a relatively good conductor, so extra precautions are necessary for transmitting electricity…

The King’s Cross – what a PPP project can be.

While Mumbai’s Chatrapati Shivaji Station and Mumbai Central remains the depressing mess it has always been for half a century, with the minimal eye-wash we call “development” such as the Hafez Contractor’s attempt at grilling sweaty mumbai travellers on a spit under a leaky polycarbonate concept that doesn’t follow the gothic nor Pompidou, Londoners now travel with comparative ease beneath the white-painted steel tubes rising in a half-dome at King’s Cross Station.

The new roof is a contemporary engineering spectacle, yet very much in the spirit of London’s great Victorian iron-and- glass rail extravaganzas. It just goes to show that the railway (though much of it already shed its mass by getting sold to the public) is still very much vibrant in its responses to travellers needs and comfort in transport is still a very big public issue. It is the inspired solution to expanding King’s Cross when a tangle of crisscrossing Tube lines seemed to leave no place to grow.

As mumbai keeps sinking hundreds of crores into middlemen and supposedly widening, refurbishment and improvement of some corridors and making new entrances — it barely is a Band-Aid for an area mobbed by over million passengers every day. Monsoons make it worse, and the summers destroy the commuter’s morale.

It’s worth having a look at how the elegant $880 million Western Concourse of the 1852 King’s Cross depot addresses so many challenges for just its 150,000 daily passengers. It is also worthy to look at the means employed, the elegance, the sincerity of addressal of all problems collectively and sustainably.

Architect John McAslan & Partners, working with the engineering firm Arup, faced two problems. To simplify connections between the train and six Tube lines, the new Western Concourse had to be built on the west side of the old station. That meant placing it above a new London Underground Ltd. ticketing concourse, which had been built without room to place supports for the latest addition.


McAslan and Arup found an elegant solution for the support problem, placing 17 massive piers outside the box of the London Underground concourse. Atop them they set the semicircle of crisscrossing steel tubes that rises 66 feet in a tall funnel shape with a 230-foot radius.

The diagonal-grid construction looks lightweight and seems to settle gently upon the piers. It triples passenger accommodation, according to information provided by the project. Under the spreading roof, McAslan tucked a mezzanine where cafes offer nice views of the pulsing flow of passengers below.

The location of the new concourse, well away from the frontage on busy Euston Road, would strike us as odd until you understand that it puts passengers a short walk to connections at the adjacent St. Pancras station, rather than unload them all out into a mess.

Simultaneously, Foster & Partners built an elegantly functional light- filled shed behind St. Pancras in 2007, to cover platforms extended to accommodate Eurotunnel trains, regional-rail lines and long-distance trains operated by Network Rail.


The transformation of King’s Cross Station for Network Rail involves three very different styles of architecture:

Rre-use, restoration and new build. The train shed and range buildings have been adapted and re-used, the station’s previously obscured Grade I listed façade was precisely restored, and a new, highly expressive Western Concourse has been designed as a centrepiece and the ‘beating heart’ of the project. When the station opened to the public on 19 March 2012, King’s Cross became a new, iconic architectural gateway to the city, ready for the 2012 London Olympics. The design re-orientates the station to the west, creating significant operational improvements and reveals the main south façade of Lewis Cubitt’s original 1852 station.

Although the Western Concourse is probably the most visually striking change to the station, JMP’s work on the project also involved a series of layered interventions and restorations including the restoration of the Eastern Range building and the revitalisation of the Main Train Shed, Suburban Train Shed and Western Range buildings.


The centrepiece of the £500m redevelopment is the new vaulted, semi-circular concourse to the west of the existing station. The concourse rises some 20m and spans the full 150m-length of the existing Grade I Listed Western Range, creating a new entrance to the station through the south end of the structure and at mezzanine level to the northern end of the Western Concourse, thereby at

7,500sqm the concourse has become Europe’s largest single-span station structure, comprising of 16 steel tree form columns that radiate from an expressive, tapered central funnel. The graceful circularity of the concourse echoes the form of the neighbouring Great Northern Hotel, with the ground floor of the hotel providing access to the concourse.

The Western Concourse sits adjacent to the façade of the Western Range, clearly revealing the restored brickwork and masonry of the original station. From this dramatic interior space, passengers access the platforms either through the ground level gate-lines in the Ticket Hall via the Western Range building, or by using the mezzanine level gate-line, which leads onto the new cross–platform footbridge.

Located above the new London Underground northern ticketing hall, and with retail elements at mezzanine level, the concourse will transform passenger facilities, whilst also enhancing links to the London Underground, and bus, taxi and train connections at St Pancras.

The concourse is set to become an architectural gateway to the King’s Cross Central mixed-use developments, a key approach to the eastern entrance of St Pancras International. It will also act as an extension to King’s Cross Square, a new plaza that will be formed between the station’s southern façade and Euston Road.


The station’s Main Train Shed is 250m long, 22m high and 65m wide, spanning eight platforms. The restoration includes revealing the bold architecture of the original south façade, re-glazing the north and south gables and refurbishing platforms The two barrel-vaulted roofs are refurbished and lined with energy-saving photo-voltaic arrays along the linear roof lanterns, while a new glass footbridge designed by JMP extends across the Main Train Shed, replacing the old mid-shed Handyside bridge and giving access to every platform as well as the mezzanine level of the concourse.

JMP’s design integrates the main and suburban train sheds for the first time, creating a completely coherent ground-plan for passenger movements into and through the station. Improvements to the Suburban Train Shed located to the north of the Western Concourse and Western Range buildings have enhanced the operation of its three platforms (the busiest in the station during peak-hours).

Read more about the plan and the vision in this document.

The Story of 99 Failures – Tokyo University Digital Fabrication Lab

Blogging after a year is a shameful aspect for any blogger. But to tell you the truth, a 3 year old and new employees and teaching and office and travelling and a hell of a lot amount of laziness never leaves enough time to write and update a blog. Which more often than not has to do with laziness and a tad bit of too much Facebook.

© Hayato Wakabayashi
Well this time’s article has to do with a student – teacher – professional collaboration of the types we seldom see, and would be a treat to see it more often and in more ways. This was a extension and expansion of the 1st year master studio project of Obuchi Lab, the University of Tokyo, as collaborative research with Obayashi Corporation. 

The objectives were to examine experimental design/ fabrication/ assembly/ construction processes which cannot be done solely by either a school or a professional practice and to explore possibilities related to the production of a new set of “problems” which could act as a catalyst for innovative architectural design research. Hence the name of the project – “99 failures” 

99 Failures” can be interpreted as “Ninety Nine Research Agenda Items”. One of the ultimate goals was to produce a pavilion that would introduce a new set of problems which students, researchers, and professional architects could share and pursue to expand the architectural discourse.

The global geometry of the pavilion was determined through a combination of digital simulations and a series of scale model tests. Digitally, roughly 50 variations of different possible geometries that would allow the structure to unfold into a flat plane were tested which would work as a stable structure when formed into the target shape. 

A geometry which fulfilled this technical requirement and gave the opportunity to provide an interesting spatial quality both inside and outside the pavilion. 

 Working back and forth between digital and physical assembly simulations and finely calibrating the structural/unfolding performance of the final target geometry, they used very thin stainless steel sheets for the compressive components to achieve a super lightweight structure. 

The components were fabricated like inflated metal “pillows”; each component was composed of three metal sheet layers. The middle sheet was the thickest of the sheets to give extra stiffness. All of the component edges were welded together and sealed, thus making the inflation process possible while also ensuring each component was watertight. The components were hydraulically inflated to act as a compressive structural element.

255 unique compressive components were all networked to work as a coherent, integrated structural system. Their shapes were drawn in a program which we custom-created solely for this project.

Amongst other factors, the following were considered when designing the shapes of components:

1)  Geometrical constraints due to global composition

2) Coordination between components to avoid undesirable overlap/conflicts between components (both when completed and when hung)

3)  Compatibility with welding jigs when fabricated with a robot arm

4)  Secure capability to be inflated with hydraulic pressure (which directly influences structural performance of component)

5)  Maximum porosity (as a pavilion) to allow light and minimize loading from wind pressure.

© Hayato Wakabayashi

Top Architecture Offices Facebook Fan Pages

Well this one took me sometime to compile, but its here nevertheless…

Facebook has been a source of networking and “liking” people and their works. Heck even dead bods like janis joplin and Amy Winehouse have fan pages.. 

Here’s a ranking of architectural offices and their fans on facebook. What do you think are the factors for this popularity?

Do you think maybe it’s people that respect and admire these architects, and it’s reflected on their fan pages? Or is it that they have a hell amount of people working in their offices? Or perhaps that the areas they live in are quite net savvy.? I just can’t make head-no-tail of it. Since Jørn Utzon has just 230 likes while Schlaich has about 50… including me… 🙁

Amazing thing is that brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer is on the top of the list. Do you think that at 103 years he knows he is the world leader in architects facebook fans?

Complete ranking, links and their fans:

  1. ALT arquitectura + obra / 508k ()
  2. Oscar Niemeyer / 361k ()
  3. Zaha Hadid / 291k ()
  4. Renzo Piano / 193k ()
  5. Santiago Calatrava / 192k ()
  6. Tadao Ando / 73k ()
  7. A-cero (Joaquín Torres) / 67k ()
  8. Peter Zumthor / 57k ()
  9. Herzog & de Meuron / 50k ()
  10. Jean Nouvel / 43k ()
  11. OMA – Rem Koolhaas / 39k ()
  12. Bunker Arquitectura / 29k ()
  13. SANAA – Sejima Nishizawa / 27k ()
  14. Toyo Ito / 21k ()
  15. BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group / 18k ()
  16. Peter Eisenman / 13k ()
  17. Richard Rogers / 13k ()
  18. Daniel Libeskind / 11k ()
  19. Alvaro Siza / 9k ()
  20. Norman Foster / 8k ()

Renovation and extension of King’s Cross Station in London

Renovation and extension of King’s Cross Station in London

2012-04-30 00:00:00
Of all the historic train stations in London, King’s Cross (1852) may perhaps be said to have the most beautiful, possibly even the purest design of them all. Two simple yet elegant steel and glass vaults “(250x22x65 m) cover the halls containing eight platforms. In the course of preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympics, John McAslan + Partners, an architectural and design practice based in London, were assigned with the redevelopment and structural extension of the station which was in dire need of major renovation.
Architect: John McAslan + Partners, London
Structural engineering design: 
Arup, London
Photo: Christian Schittich
Extensive parts of King’s Cross are landmarked (Grade I-listed). In the course of two building stages, the station halls were cleaned and newly glazed, while the two Western and Eastern Range Buildings were carefully renovated and modernised.
Photo: Hufton + Crow/ John McAslan + Partners
Photo: Hufton + Crow/ John McAslan + Partners
The third stage of construction, and highlight of the building measures, is the Western Concourse with its rolling steel and glass roof. This free standing structure was newly built in front of the historic Western Range Building.
Photo: Hufton + Crow/ John McAslan + Partners
The new station entrance is located underneath a semi-circular roof that swoops up to a height of 20 m and extends with a span of 52 m and a diameter of 130 m. Aerial photographs illustrate the ideal fit of the geometry of the new roof between the rear of the Great Northern Hotel and the Western Range Building.
Photo: John Sturrock
The largest self-supporting station roof in Europe (according to the architect) is distinguished by a white steel grid, which rises up vertically and then flares out elegantly out to the sides, much like an amazing giant cascading mushroom.
Photo: Hufton + Crow/ John McAslan + Partners
The outer rim of the roof construction weighing approximately 1,000 t rests on sixteen tree-shaped supports, each able to bear 600 t of weight.
Photo: Christian Schittich
Photo: Christian Schittich